This post was written a few years ago, not long after I returned to Austin. I had become a ONE Campaign volunteer while waiting out the economic downtown in San Antonio. In summer 2013, I returned to Austin to work with a new nonprofit to help ramp-up its major gift fundraising activities.
The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 – “Helping sub-Saharan Africa increase modern electricity access will save lives, boost education, alleviate extreme poverty and accelerate growth.“
After many years of intense major gift fundraising work with a number of worthy nonprofit projects across the state of Texas, the economic downturn allowed me “quiet time” to return to some of my other life interests. From my grade school days, I was fascinated by Africa and the Middle East. I watched television programs and voraciously read Time Life books my parents had acquired for my sister and I. When I was in high school, my parents took our family on a month-long trip to the Middle East and North Africa, where my interests were deepened even further.
What is ONE Campaign?
“ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than seven million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.
We believe the fight against poverty isn’t about charity, but about justice and equality.
Whether lobbying political leaders in world capitals or running cutting-edge grassroots campaigns, ONE pressures governments to do more to fight AIDS and other preventable, treatable diseases in the poorest places on the planet, to empower small-holder farmers, to expand access to energy, and to combat corruption so governments are accountable to their citizens. Cofounded by Bono and other activists, ONE is strictly nonpartisan.”
Why should someone like me support critical needs like electricity for Africa?
First, let me share an insight:
“This notion that we can be an island unto ourselves, I don’t think is realistic in the world we live in … But this notion that we should cut off all foreign aid, when it’s less than 1 percent of the budget and when it’ll isolate us from the world and hurt our national security – I don’t think that makes sense.”
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 23, 2012
I believe Africa represents the future of our world. It has so much promise on every level! But also, allowing horrible living conditions, dire poverty, disease and ignorance to persist means many issues here at home like national security are negatively impacted. Problems overseas can quickly become our own problems, as we have seen time and time again. With relatively little expense, these international challenges can be alleviated for the benefit of the entire human race.
And as a former member of the Board of IREC: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, I am particularly devoted to clean energy, not only across the United States, but globally.
Did you know:
“In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 620 million people do not have access to electricity. Thirty seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a national electrification rate of below 50 percent. These endemic power shortages affect all aspects of life. The President and Congress are working with African leaders, civil society organizations, and the private sector to dramatically change this dire situation. We know energy access is one of the most urgent priorities for people in sub-Saharan Africa with one in five Africans citing infrastructure – including electricity – as their most pressing concern.
The lack of electricity impacts people’s lives in at least five major ways, with a disproportionately negative impact on girls and women.”
An article posted by the World Economic Forum, “Can Africa Lead the Green Energy Revolution” notes:
“Africa’s 900 million people use less energy than Spain’s 47 million. In sub-Saharan Africa, 621 million people have no electricity whatsoever. Each year, 600,000 Africans – half of them children – die from household air pollution, caused by fuelwood and charcoal used for cooking.”
Clearly, the world must support African leaders as they work to improve this dire situation.
When I first went off to college to The University of Texas at Austin in the 1970s, I was fortunate to study African literature with Dr. Bernth Lindfors. You might enjoy reading about Dr. Lindfors in this outstanding online journal, “Life and Letters: The One And Only Bernth Lindfors” (page 6).
When reading African literature, I was inspired by its grace and wisdom. As Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe said,
“Once you allow yourself to identify with the people in a story, then you might begin to see yourself in that story even if on the surface it’s far removed from your situation. This is what I try to tell my students: this is one great thing that literature can do – it can make us identify with situations and people far away.”
That is exactly what African literature did for me. You might consider African authors the next time you are seeking a good book to read.
Please support ONE Campaign and help release millions of Africans from the grip of extreme poverty. It costs you nothing but your voice.
- For a photo portfolio from ACL Fest in 2018, follow this link. I enjoyed volunteering for ONE Campaign for the better part of a day during the popular Austin music festival.
- In 2018, I undertook a DNA test with Ancestry.com. Our family has long suspected we have African roots on my mother’s side. That turned out to be true, with 1% of my DNA being from Mali in West Africa, and another 1% from Cameroon/Congo/Western Bantu Peoples (the DNA research is updated annually, by the way). I was thrilled, and we were glad to have the mystery of our roots resolved. I am an even greater advocate for ONE Campaign, and I am exploring that 1% online as often as I can.
- You might also enjoy reading this Brookings analysis, Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2019. “Africa is brimming with promise and, in some places, peril. With its array of contributions, this year’s edition reflects both the diversity of the continent and the common threads that bind it together. With that aim, we hope to promote and inform a dialogue that will generate sound practical strategies for achieving shared prosperity across the continent.”